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Lectures recall groundbreaking classicist

She was a trailblazing archaeologist who led the first American excavations in Sardinia and was the driving force behind the creation of a formal interdisciplinary program in archaeology at Tufts.

Miriam S. Balmuth passed away in 2004 after a distinguished career as professor of classics, archaeology and art history at Tufts. Now her legacy is being honored by a new lecture series in her name in the Classics Department.

The inaugural Miriam S. Balmuth Lectures, focusing on the linkage between classical antiquity and the contemporary world, were given in April by David J. Mattingly, professor of Roman archaeology at the University of Leicester in England. Prof. Mattingly presented four lectures in Goddard Chapel and Braker Hall on the theme, "Experiencing Empire: Power and Identity in the Roman World."

The Miriam S. Balmuth lectureship created by a gift from her family and friends supports four lectures over a two-week period by a visiting scholar in residence in March or April of each year. Other key elements of the lectureship include interaction between the visiting lecturer and students; publication of the lectures, and an annual dinner attended by members of the Balmuth family and the Tufts community.

"We were all very pleased with the inaugural lectures by David Mattingly - we attended the first two - and felt the Miriam S. Balmuth Lectures were off to a solid start," her son and daughter-in-law, Jeremy and Linda Balmuth, write in a joint message.

"We reflected, after the wonderful opening dinner with Tufts faculty, administration, students and friends, that this was exactly the kind of event Miriam would have loved - indeed, the kind of event she would have organized. We look forward both to the publication of the Mattingly lectures and to next year's events."

The lecture series is a fitting tribute to a pioneering archaeologist who distinguished herself by her excavations and scholarship at a time few women were prominent in the field, said her successor as director of Tufts' Archaeology Program, Prof. Bruce Hitchner, chairman of the Classics Department.

"Miriam Balmuth was a founder of the undergraduate interdisciplinary program in archaeology, a groundbreaking archaeologist in Sardinia, and an expert in Roman coinage," Hitchner said.

"She went to Harvard for her PhD at a time very few women were in the field. She was always a groundbreaking scholar in the community, and she stood up very strongly for what she believed at a time the university was very much a male institution.

"She left a strong legacy of archaeology in the Classics at Tufts."

Your gift toward the Balmuth Lectureship will help further that legacy.